Tag Archives: assistive technology

“my impairment left me feeling like I was on a deserted island but technology helped me feel at home”

Ajay, Service Desk Team Lead Analyst at Scope talks about his journey from the age of 16 to a working adult, showing how technology has helped him live the life he chooses.

Ajay, wheelchair user, looking at computer screens at work

For me living with an impairment is a bit like being in a relationship, you and your impairment know each other very intimately, you share every moment together, you sleep together, eat together and spend a lot of time getting to know each other very well. Like most relationships you also have conflicts, and both sometimes desire different things. This certainly was the case with my impairment and me.

As I got older my disability became worse and by the time I turned 16 years old I had lost all movement in my hands. From being able to write, play musical instruments or even feed myself, I was left with no movement at all. It was as if my impairment had left me on a deserted island with no hope of getting back home.

Technology changed my life for the better

This is where technology came into effect and really changed my life for the better bringing more control and freedom to it. I remember a time when I was watching TV at home and CNN showed an advert for a new piece of technology that had come out in the US called the Smartnav.

It was a device that would let you control the mouse using your head. It works by sending a signal to a piece of reflective material which you can attach anywhere and when you move that, it would control the mouse. You can click using additional switches or keys on the keyboard. When I learnt about this I immediately contacted the suppliers and purchased it from the US. At the time I could not operate the computer without assistance and if this worked I would feel not completely disabled again.

Ajay, wheelchair user, looking at his work screen on his chair and talking into his microphone

I remember when the first one arrived it was faulty, and I was extremely disappointed. It meant that I had to return it and wait for the next one to arrive which came in a couple of weeks. As soon as I plugged it in and configured it, I was hoping that this would change my life and let me use a computer again. When I started using it, it was amazing! I was able to control the mouse with precision and complete control. It had opened up a new world to me as I was able to use the computer again, and hope of getting off that deserted island had become a possibility again.

The internet was a complete life changer

As I got older, the Internet started taking over people’s lives and more and more Internet Service Providers were providing Internet connectivity to people’s homes. Being able to use the internet was a complete life changer for me also because it meant I could communicate with anyone around the world and I could research and look at whatever I wanted.

The next piece of technology, which completely transformed my life again was a device called the Housemate which I have been using since February this year.

This device with an app installed on your mobile, lets you control devices around your home. Being able to control the TV again was fantastic and I didn’t need to rely on having to ask someone to change channels or access recordings and so on. With this device I can control the TV completely, being able to record, playback recordings, change channels and fully operate my Sky box. Feeling bored was now not an option.

Technology gives me the independence to be part of society

Without technology I don’t think I could really survive in this world, being imprisoned in a body which cannot move can be very depressing at times and it’s something I would not wish anyone to go through. Finding different ways to keep your hopes up and trying to perceive things positively can sometimes be a job in itself and extremely tiring. Technology brings a breath of fresh air to my life, being able to live it the way I want, giving me the independence to be part of society, be employed and share experiences with friends and family.

There is no limit to what technology could bring to disabled people’s lives

What I would really like to see is developers and manufacturers to develop more technology and software to bring more freedom and independence to lives of many disabled people out there, who rely on technology not as a luxury, but as a means to get through life on a daily basis. I think if there was more awareness raised in Information Technology about the needs of disabled people, then there is no limit to what technology could bring to people’s lives and perhaps maybe someday it could even get me off this deserted island that my impairment left me on many years ago.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, with digital and assistive technology playing a huge part in this. We all need to work together to change society for the better.

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger, so get involved in the campaign today to end this inequality.

“This is how assistive technology is helping me live the life I choose”

A keen campaigner and writer, Raisa uses lots of different assistive technology to help her do day to day tasks. Here, she writes about some of these pieces of technology and how they help her live the life she chooses.

I’m very selective when choosing assistive technology. Of course, everything has its purpose, but if it is no use to me, there’s no point in using it.

For me, because I have the option, I don’t use assistive technology for absolutely everything. I’ve only considered using assistive technology seriously when I started university in 2013.

Because I was doing a Creative and Professional Writing degree, it was clear that there was going to be a lot of writing involved. There was no guarantee that I would be able to type everything up in time, by only using two fingers on the keyboard without a fast typist beside me. I was lucky in the sense that I got quite a lot of help through Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) at uni.

I’ve always had the habit of writing nearly everything by hand so I can literally see what I am typing, rather than transferring my thoughts straight onto a computer. I have never been able to do it. The only exception is when I compose emails. But even then, if my email is really long and I’m really exhausted, I would probably end up using some sort of assistive technology.

A woman laughs whilst talking in a group at the Scope for Change residential
Raisa talking to fellow campaigners

Technology has so many uses

I am (literally) using Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 to dictate this post in my bedroom. This version is pretty good. I was first introduced to this software in 2009, when version 9 came out. It was horrendous. No matter how much I tried to train the software to my voice there were too many typos per page. I literally wanted to rip my hair out.

I got Dragon 12 at the beginning of my university course in 2013. Thank God I did. There was just too much to do in so little time! Don’t get me wrong, it still makes mistakes, but they’re so rare that I can live with it now.

Something else I use quite regularly was my Olympus Sonority voice recorder. I used this device to record every single one of my lectures or big public events over the last five years. It’s great that they automatically convert into audio files that work on pretty much any device – so I could listen to them anywhere if I wanted to, either on my phone or laptop. It saves as a compatible file for your memory stick also – bonus!

Assistive technology can help you live the life you choose

A family friend showed me Apple’s voice recognition software and how it worked before I got my first iPhone. I got really excited by this. I wouldn’t use Siri in public, but voice recognition software on my phone has helped me do my most important job these days – dictating and replying to emails! I have a habit of sending really long emails! I don’t have to use my laptop, I just have to hold my phone in my hand and speak.

A woman laughs with another campaigner at Scope for Change
Raisa laughing with another campaigner

One of my really long emails to date, which I wrote by only my right thumb and predicted text (without using voice recognition at all), took me two hours to type. However, if I wrote that same email again using voice recognition software on my phone, it would have only taken me about half an hour. It is also a quick way to make notes in your notes section for reminders.

I personally wouldn’t go as far as using assistive technology to help me with absolutely everything. I don’t want technology to directly take over my life. However, I hope that this post has been helpful in showing how assistive technology can help you to live the life you choose.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, with digital and assistive technology playing a huge part in this. We all need to work together to change society for the better. 

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger so get involved in the campaign today to end this inequality.

Alisha’s story: how technology has changed my life

Can you imagine the impact technology can have on a disabled student’s life? Technology can give disabled people independence that they could only otherwise dream of.

With your support, technology is opening up the world for young disabled people like Alisha. Alisha is 17 years old and attends Scope’s Craig y Parc School. In this blog she tells us how technology is helping her to realise her potential.

Support our work with young disabled people, as well as our other services, by donating today

If I’d been asked to write this blog two years ago, it would have taken about an hour and a half just to write a sentence.

I would probably still have done it because I want everyone to know the difference technology has made to my life. But it would have been so frustrating and so difficult.

“I can’t physically type as fast as I think”

I have cerebral palsy and I can’t physically type as fast as I think or anywhere near. But right now, that’s what I’m doing. I bet you’re wondering how!

I am using a piece of technology called Dragon Dictate. I speak, and the words appear on my screen and then I can print them out. It’s made a huge difference to me. It’s made me achieve things I only dreamed of.

I used to have a teacher – she’s passed away now – and one day she said to me. “You’re going to do your Maths GCSE.” I said, “No I’m not. Don’t be silly.” I didn’t think I could do anything like that. Studying was so difficult because I had to rely on someone to type everything into a computer for me.

But that’s changed now. I can do it myself with my voice.

Disabled girl using assistive technology
Alisha using Dragon Dictate

“It has opened up the world to me”

Kim, who is the Assistive Technologist at my school, introduced me to Dragon Dictate and it has opened up the world to me.

Kim showed me how to train it to understand my voice – it took a few hours. Now I use it in class and at home as well. It’s made me more independent and able to study on my own. So now I’m doing my Maths GCSE. I know my teacher would be so proud of me.

I never thought I’d be able to do one GCSE in my life, but I’m going to do two. And I feel like I want to push myself even further. Kim says technology can help me do that – it is opening up the world for young disabled people like me.

There are many different types of technology that can help a young disabled person become more independent. For example, if someone has very limited movement they can control a computer screen with Eye Gaze. That means – when they’re reading – they can move from page to page using the pupils of their eyes. They don’t need to press a button or anything.

Just one person – Kim – works with all 42 students here at my school and helps us use technology in different ways. She’s amazing. I don’t know what we’d do without her – we’d lose out on so many opportunities.

I’m guessing technology makes your life easier. Maybe it means you can keep in touch with your family – you can talk to and even see relatives who live far away. Well, Kim’s shown me that technology can do even more for young disabled people like me. It can help us make friends, communicate and control our environment (like turning the lights on and off). It can help us study, get qualifications and give us more opportunities to work. It can make us more confident and independent.

Alisha’s story shows that young disabled people’s lives can be changed for the better with technology.

Support our work with young disabled people, as well as our other services, by donating today

With your support we can make sure another disabled student has the chance to use technology that can open up their world.

Disability Innovation: A day in the life of an iPad

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology and hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

The development of various tablets has already had a huge impact for many disabled people, making it easier for them to plan, communicate and engage. There are lots of different apps and software out there that can offer support, and although many were developed without disabled people as the intended audience, they can be used throughout the day to make life easier and give more control. The following is a possible day in the life of an iPad.

Starting the day

7 am: My alarm wakes me at 7 with a gently increasing sound, so as to not wake me with a shock. Now there is a range of possible alarms including vibrating or high pitched sounds, so regardless of your impairment you can still be up on time.

7:30 am: Using Skype or Facetime I can get in touch with my support worker to discuss the day ahead and let them know how I feel- is today a good day or a bad day? Is there anything unexpected I might need today they can bring?

8 am: I turn on the radio using my radio App to find out what’s happening in the world today, how the traffic is and what I can expect from the weather. It helps me plan my outfit, transport and activities. If you need more detailed weather information there a range of weather apps to choose from.

8:30 am: Using assistive technology from Perrero I switch open the door so my support worker can get in.

Keeping active during the day

9 am: I’ve checked emails, LinkedIn and Facebook. Whether you are working from home, checking on freelance opportunities or just staying in touch with friends and family it’s easy wherever you are.

10:30am: I’m enjoying a mid-morning relax with an online paper. Sadly the iPad won’t make my a cup of tea (yet!)

1pm: The taxi I ordered via my app has arrived to take me into town for a doctor’s appointment, and once it’s done I can book a follow up appointment online.

2pm: Just seen a great top in a shop window so I’ve taken a picture on the iPad camera so I can hunt it down online later and get it delivered straight to my door.

5pm: Catching up on my favourite TV programmes via demand services such as BBC iPlayer.

6pm: As a treat I’ve ordered takeaway from somewhere local to be delivered to my door using Just Eat. Got no cash? That’s OK because I can pay online as I order.

Winding down

8pm: I may not be going out tonight but I can still socialise online: What’s App with a friend, chat to someone new on Tinder or contribute to online discussion boards like Scope’s Community.

9pm: Quickly check my Google calendar for tomorrow’s plans and see if there’s anything I can book in advance.

9:30pm:  Chilling out watching a film online to unwind for the evening.

11pm: Back in bed I’m going to read a bit of your current book via my ereader app before a good night’s sleep.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Disability Innovations: Six apps we can’t live without

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology, including guest bloggers, like Sharon. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

In October 2011 I had a serious motorbike accident, 18 broken bones, cardiac arrest (twice), coma for a month and hospital for six months. Diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury amongst other physical conditions, my family and I are like other people living with a neurological condition and slowly coming to terms with a dramatic change in lifestyle.

In October 2014 we released the first issue of Health is Your Wealth magazine. This was created because although we understand there are many neurological conditions they tend to have similar challenges which can affect independence. The magazine is available electronically for free and is particularly suitable for people who have visual or co-ordination issues because they can zoom in on the text and turn pages easily.

The magazine is split into six sections and formatted so it can be easily read, lends itself to audio listening and is colour coded so the publication is easy to navigate. Amongst other articles each issue has a review of mobile phone, tablet and PC applications. The following are our top rated applications which are all free and can aid independence; we hope you will find them useful.

  1. SwiftKey Keyboard

 What does it claim to do?

Allows you to type quicker and easier. Especially good for people with co-ordination issues and impaired speed or performance

How friendly is it?

Easy and quick to install, however you may need to power off your phone and turn it back on

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android, Apple iPhones and tablets

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. One of those pieces of technology you wondered how you did without!

  1. Google calendar

What does it claim to do?

Helps you to remember what to do and when. Gives you reminders and lets you plan your day, week or month. You can see your schedule at a glance with photos and maps of the places you’re going, quickly create events all calendars on your phone in one place.

How friendly is it?

Very easy to use and quick once you know where things are. The interface is simple and straight forward to learn.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. Without this tool we would be unable to function.

  1. Evernote

What does it claim to do?

Allows you to jot notes down and carry them wherever you are. You can also to-do’s and checklists, attach files and search through your notes easily.

How friendly is it?

Easy to get started plus has lots of features that are inherent but the interface is so simple that if you want to use it just as a note taker then it works beautifully.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. If you are unable to write this application combined with Swiftkey keyboard will keep you organised and in control!

  1. Medisafe

What does it claim to do?

Helps make sure you take the right quantity and dosage of medicines at the right time. It also allows you to determine the shape and colour of the pill rather than know them by medical name.

How friendly is it?

Easy to get started and intuitive plus has most medicines already built in!

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. It’s awesome and is appropriate for various age ranges.

  1. Smart Recipes

What does it claim to do?

Gets you eating well balanced food, through existing recipes and a meal mixer option. Encourages you to follow simple instructions and has a shopping list function.

How friendly is it?

Extremely friendly.  The recipes are well explained. Detailing which ingredients you need, how long you will need to prepare and cook for plus what utensils are required.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Available on Apple Store and Google Play

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. It’s very good, simple to use and fun.

  1. Block Puzzle

What does it claim to do?

Helps to maintain or improve your logic and problem solving skills plus it’s fun! You have to fill the board by dragging different shaped blocks into the correct place to make a single larger shape, there are different modes and difficulty levels to try.

How friendly is it?

Block Puzzle is incredibly intuitive and fun for all ages and skill levels. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked!

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Available on Apple Store and Google Play

What does it cost?

Block Puzzle is amazing value, packed with over 6000 free mind-bending levels of increasing difficulty that’ll keep you busy for hours.

Review of application and rating

We give this a 5 star rating. It’s very good, simple to use and fun.

The magazine is released bi-monthly, starting in February and is distributed to major hospitals. To get the next issue free! go to the Health is your wealth website. Please note Health is Your Wealth magazine magazine is now formatted to work with the Adobe read aloud feature.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Got a question about technology? Join our Q&A about assistive technology

Disability Innovations: Talkitt app helps disabled people use their voice

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

What is Talkitt?

Talkitt is a voice to voice app which aims to enable people with motor, speech, and language conditions to communicate freely and easily using their own voice. It works by interpreting an individual’s pronunciation of words into understandable speech. Talkitt recognises the user’s vocal patterns, translates words from any language and then speaks them aloud via an app.

Approximately 1.5% of the population in the western world has some form of difficulty communicating as a result of medical conditions including: Motor Neurone Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Brain Damage and Autism. Current communication solutions include using eye and head tracking systems or using other body movements, but none of these enable the user to really communicate in the traditional sense, by using their voice. What makes Talkitt different is that it does not rely on expensive technology, simply a smartphone app and the user’s own voice. Talkitt wants to help increase participation in everyday activities, particularly when out and about and communicating with new people.

What’s behind the idea?

Talkitt’s Chief Executive (CEO) Danny Weissberg came up with the idea in Israel back in 2012 after his grandmother had a stroke that severely impaired her speech. As a software engineer himself, Danny wanted to come up with a solution to help his grandmother. The more he explored the issue and spoke to speech and occupational therapists about it, the more he was convinced that there was a need for this sort of solution.

In 2012 Voiceitt, the company behind Talkitt was launched as a joint venture between software engineers, technology officers and senior Occupational Therapists (OTs) to combine their technology background with the OTs experience and user insight. Inspired by Danny’s grandmother and working to use “technology for good”, Talkitt hopes to break down barriers between disabled people and their communities, and enable them to communicate and participate fully.

How does it actually work?

Talkitt is not your standard speech recognition app. The software works by creating a dictionary of sounds and their meanings, learning each individual’s way of speaking. First the user has to go through the calibration stage. This is when the app learns the user’s speech patterns by getting them to record a selection of set words and phrases dependent on their cognitive ability to create their personal dictionary. This dictionary helps the system to map what a person is saying to enable an accurate and personalised interpretation. Then the user can move on to the recognition stage where the app is able to interpret their individual pronunciation of words. The user speaks a word, it is associated with a word on the software, and the app speaks the interpretation. For example, the app can recognise the pronunciation of “o-ko-la” and the software will translate it to “chocolate”.


In techno terms, the approach is based on robust multi-domain signal processing, and an appropriate pruning of dynamic voice pattern classifier search space. Talkitt uses a smart system which uses machine learning so that the system continues to learn adaptively with the user over time to build and enhance the user’s personal dictionary. As the system is not language dependent but speaker dependent, there are no language restrictions as it works based on pattern recognition software. As it interprets vocal patterns, it can even interpret made up words or phrases such as an autistic child may use to communicate. Talkitt hopes that future developments will also enable the app to be used for degenerative conditions, by recording the user’s own voice to use later.

What’s next for Talkitt?

Talkitt is not yet on the market and is currently under development. They are testing the first release with users, working in partnership with disability charities across the globe. They are also in the process of collecting as many audio recordings as possible to help populate their audio recording database and inform the algorithm they are developing. The aim is to release a version one in early 2016. This will be a basic version of the system with a limited vocabulary for the user’s personal dictionary and will be able to interpret a few calibrated words. Version two is due to be released in 2017 and will incorporate the adaptive learning (without calibration) and continuous speech features as well as having an extended vocabulary.

Once released, Talkitt will run on a ‘freemium model’ with an initial period after the launch where it will be available for anyone to download for free. After that it will run on a monthly subscription fee of $20, around £12. The software can currently run on tablets and smartphones, but eventually they hope to offer it for wearable devices including smart watches and Google Glass. They also hope to integrate it into other devices such as a wearable necklace or wheelchair and browsers. Using this technology that is not currently found in mainstream speech engines to improve existing speech recognition technology. Ultimately, they hope that the data their app will gather in their speech database will help medical research centres and universities to further their research and understanding into neurological and cognitive diseases.

Talkitt has had many successes to date, including running a successful crowdfunding campaign which secured $87,000 (around £55,000) of funding to continue development and testing. They have also won some prestigious awards and competitions, including the Philips Innovation Fellows and Verizon Powerful Answers Competition, the Wall Street Journal Startup Showcase, Deutsche Telekom Innovation Contest and the Orange 4G Innovation Lab, to name but a few!

Why we love it!

What makes Talkitt really special is that unlike existing alternatives, it is a form of alternative communication that is based fully on the user’s voice. Everyone should have the chance to communicate in a natural way, and Talkitt aims to enable traditional communication using a person’s voice in a truly personalised way that’s not offered by text to speech systems. Talkitt will also offer an inexpensive alternative to traditional communication devices, and can cut waiting times as it can be downloaded instantly. The future looks bright for Talkitt, and we’re excited to see how this venture develops!

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

To tell us about a Disability Innovation, please email innovation@scope.org.uk

“I didn’t know about web accessibility until I applied to Siteimprove!”

Lola Olson is Digital Marketing and Content Manager at Scope, which means that web accessibility is their primary concern. Lola says “having an accessible website isn’t just nice to have, it’s something we need as a disability charity.” One of the tools Scope uses to ensure our website is accessible is Siteimprove.

For Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Lola interviewed Bryn Anderson, Customer Experience Manager from Siteimprove about accessibility.

Lola: What personal interest do you have in accessibility?

Bryn smiling at the camera, wearing a blue shirtBryn: I am a partial albino and very short sighted, which is common for albinos. I can’t drive or read the number on the bus. On the whole, it’s fine but sometimes 2D vision makes heading the ball on a Sunday afternoon an act of God. So I think it’s fair to say I have always been interested in accessibility.

In regards to using a computer, I use a large monitor shifting my upper body from left to right and back again, a bit like a windscreen wiper. But I didn’t even know about web accessibility until I applied for a job at Siteimprove! It’s pretty unbelievable considering I have a degree in Interactive Media Production.

Lola: What part does Siteimprove have to play in web accessibility?

Bryn: On one level, Siteimprove’s Accessibility tool monitors how accessible websites are. But the key aspect of our tool is being able to check websites from conception throughout their entire life.

People mistakenly think that web accessibility is a project – but it’s not. Redesigning your website is a project. Moving content over is a project. But accessibility is an ongoing project that has to be maintained. It’s not just about building layouts that are accessible, but also keeping track of content. And having a quality monitoring tool is integral to web accessibility.

Lola: What difference do you think accessibility makes to people using websites?

Bryn: Responsive designs are key for retaining information and a useable layout when zooming in, which I do a lot of. Sometimes when I zoom in things disappear. And you wouldn’t want that happening if you’re trying to book a flight or buy a train ticket!

And for anyone using a screen reader I can imagine that when people link text like “Read more” instead of “Accessibility blog” it creates a lot of problems. Those kind of links are as useless as a tube map of stops all called ‘station’… no thanks!

Lola: Is Siteimprove doing anything special for Global Accessibility Awareness Day?

Bryn: Yes we are! In collaboration with the Danish Association of the Blind, we’re organising a biking event in Copenhagen for the blind, partially sighted and sighted people alike on May 21. Participants will ride 100 tandem bicycles and afterwards the bikes will be donated to tandem clubs and people with visual impairments.

To learn more about Siteimprove and accessibility, visit Siteimprove’s website.

Making the most of technology

Today is UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for this year is the ‘Promise of Technology’ so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about some of our favourite tech innovations and update you on our work around technology.

The digital revolution has already had a huge impact on our lives – ever stopped to think how you managed before you had that life-changing tech device, app or website? Despite the rapid changes we have seen over the last decade, many would argue that this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how technology will change the way we live. Our report looking at the future of care published earlier this year, featured robots, monitoring devices that can help you manage health and well-being, and apps that can manage a remote care network. They all have big implications for the way we manage care. Although there will always be some people who are a little behind the curve in adopting new technology, its potential to make the world more accessible, convenient and easier to navigate is undeniable.

The rapid pace of technology development can feel a bit overwhelming, but it also means that new products can be developed faster and more cost effectively than ever before. For example, we are excited by the growing range of home automation products that allow you to control household devices like lights, heating, appliances and potentially any household object using a smart phone or tablet. These have the potential to make it easier for disabled people to be independent at home and are a fraction of the costs of existing specialist domestic technology systems.

What are we doing?

Here at Scope we are particularly interested in how disabled people and their families can make the best possible use of the technology that’s out there to make day to day life easier and more affordable. We’ve commissioned some research looking at how disabled people currently use technology and how they would like to be able to use it in the future. We have also been looking into what support is currently available to disabled people to help them find, use and buy technology. We are particularly keen to explore how we might enable and encourage disabled people and technology experts to share their experiences and knowledge so more people can find out about useful technology products and get the most out of them.

One example of a product we’d love more people to know about is the Giraffe Reader. This is an innovative and low-cost adaptation for use with the iPhone which allows people with visual impairments to read paper documents using the Optical Character Recognition. It’s lightweight, easy to carry, is sold for £32 and can be used instead of a piece of specialist equipment that usually costs between £500 and £2000!

We’d love to hear from you…

We want more people to share their opinions on what tech products are being used and what is out there. What do you like/ hate/ how do you find out about new things and what is missing from the market at the moment? With this in mind, if you are a disabled person or you help support a disabled person, then we’d love to know about your experience. Visit our forum to talk about your favourite piece of technology (app, website, device…), and we can start to share your tech wisdom with others.

We will continue to update this blog with progress and information on more of our projects, as well as with our insights on all things innovation; ideas, ventures and trends that we find. We look forward to hearing from you as we go!

“Technology gives me freedom” #100days100stories

We first shared the stories of how technology has enhanced the lives of disabled students at Beaumont College in Lancaster in December 2014. We’re republishing it here as part of Scope’s  100 Days, 100 Stories  project.

David, 20: “It gives me freedom”

DavidFor verbal communication, David uses a Liberator communication device, which he controls with his eye movements. It has a Bluetooth adaptor, so it lets him use any PC or Mac by sending commands through the Liberator.

“It was just the best feeling when I learnt to use it – it took me a couple of weeks. Communicating with people was very difficult before.”

He also has an ACTIV controller in the headrest of his chair in his bedroom, which means he can control his TV, Blu-Ray and music players.

“Technology is very important because it enables me to communicate and be more independent, which gives me freedom.”

Shaun, 20: “It means I can do more”

ShaunShaun uses a Liberator communication aid with a head switch. The device scrolls through different rows and columns on a screen, and then he hits the buttons if he wants to create a message. He can also control things in his bedroom with it such as, open and close the door, curtains and windows, as well as his TV.

“I find it easy, but it took a couple of months to learn. It was life-changing – it means I can do more things. Before, I found communication with people was hard if they did not know me. It has changed my life for the better.”

Dominique, 22: “I wouldn’t be able to talk to my family on Facebook”

DominiqueDominique uses a joystick to move a mouse pointer and then clicks the switch with her head rather than the mouse button.

“It’s easy to learn, but it can take a long time to get used to – it took me about three weeks before I was nine out of ten!

It was weird because it was new, but it is very important. It lets me use a computer, and communicate in shops, on transport, in restaurants and pubs. I talk to my family on Facebook every day, and without my technology I wouldn’t be able to use Facebook.”

Cameron, 19: “I can produce my best work”

CameronCameron drives his wheelchair with a joystick. When using a computer he uses a different joystick, a touch screen and a large keyboard.

“It takes a bit of getting used to, but I am a very, very determined individual who will not stop until the task is completed to my own expectations! It took a fair few weeks, but I continued to push myself. It was a strange sensation – it’s kind of like when you play your first game of wheelchair basketball, because you have to use your strength to propel an object, only it’s a touch screen or keyboard rather than a ball.

Assistive technology helps me complete my college work – without it, my work wouldn’t be as effective. Because I’m at a college where the technology does exist, I find I can produce my work to the best standard I can do.”

Alice, 20: “Every time she uses it, she has a big smile”

AliceAlice has complex learning, visual and communication difficulties, and uses a communication device with a PODD Grid to communicate. It’s an onscreen grid of symbols, and Alice uses a head switch to scan through them and point to the one she wants. She has a speaker in her headrest, and the device reads each symbol out loud. Her assistive technologist, Zak Sly, says:

“Alice has used a PODD book in the past, but before someone had to turn the pages for her – it took a lot longer to get to the words or sentences she needed. She learnt to use the new device in a few weeks and is now building up her skills, using it more and more in her day-to-day activities. When she first got the device, she smiled lots and every time she uses it, she has a big smile.”

Find out more about 100 Days, 100 Stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.